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Sony Clie PEG N770 Review

October 1, 2002



Introduction

Users of Windows CE OS in their disputes with users of Palm OS point out that Pocket PCs have a multitask operating system supporting a resolution much greater than that of the PalmOS and wider multimedia capabilities. All these Palm's disadvantages will be put an end to in the new PalmOS version, but at present fans of this platform have to put up with them and enjoy the interface of their favorite OS and multimedia PDAs that do not weigh down their pockets. 

Music lovers got help from Sony which is known for its original way of problem solving. First Sony launched handhelds with a screen supporting high resolutions. However, Sony wasn't the only player on this market - there was also HandSpring. But soon after that the company kicked off its line of PDAs sporting not only color monitors of 320x320 pixels (it's 4 times greater than standard 160x160), but also a built-in MP3 player. 



Sony Clie N770 screen has 320x320 pixels

In general

The whole description of the design of the Clie 770 can be put into the words: "It's a Sony". But I'd like to attract your attention to one aspect. The PDA has a silvery, pleasant-looking casing of a roundish shape. The device fits the hand perfectly, though it's weighty enough to feel it - 160 g. It's quite much for a Palm, though it's not simply a Palm, as it comes not with a software audio player (like in PocketPC), but with a hardware MP3 one which certainly adds to its weight. But even those 160 grams do not weigh down your pockets. 

The handling of the computer is simple. The front panel incorporates 4 hot keys right under the silvery board with the word Clie; and there is a swing button in the center for scrolling files or choosing menu items. Below there is a Power button. 

A jog-dial, which is typical of most Sony's phones and PDAs, is located on the side panel, under which is a Back button which works as ESC of a desktop PC. Below is a Hold key which locks all other keys. In this mode the backlight is off as well, which is critical when the device is used as an audio player. 
 

IR port and slot for Memory Stick cards

The package contains not only the computer and a heap of paper, but also two protective covers (one is probably spare). The cover, like the computer itself, is silvery with the word Clie written in the center. Everything looks pretty nice. When the computer is used, the cover is folded back so that you can easily work, though in this case it covers the IR port (you should "undress" you computer - luckily, it's easy to do). Besides, it's a bit troublesome to fish out the stylus. That is why you should first take out the stylus and then turn on your assistant. The upper panel of the PDA contains a slot for Memory Stick cards between the IR port and stylus, and next to it is a lamp which winks when you are working with the card. 

Apart from the covers, charger and CDs with drivers the PDA sells together with Sony's headphones marked as Sony Clie and and a remote control with the same words. All the stuff look beautiful and stylish. The headphones are not entirely silvery - they play with pink colors. A special clip is not drawn off (as many other manufacturers implement it) but rotates around its axis at 90 degrees to fix the headphones on your ears. When the clip is turned back it reliably fixes the headphones on the head. Well, first time it's not easy to put the headphones on, but soon you get used to them. 

The Clie's remote control looks quite usual. It might seem not so functional for owners of new audio players, but it incorporates all necessary features. There are six buttons in all: two for sound adjustment, two for choosing compositions, Stop and Play. There is also a Hold button that prevents any accidental key pressing. 



PDA's left side

Next to the Hold button there is a small jut: you can use this controller as a stylus pressing with the jut on the screen. Well, the solution looks curious. 

The pocket computer certainly comes with a cradle and a charger. Thankfully, these two devices are separated, and you can take only the charger when on a trip. 

By the way, owners of the N770 have to charge the battery much more seldom than owners of the PocketPC, though Palms are certainly beyond any comparison here. For example, the battery discharges fast of all when we play MP3 files from a blue MemoryStick card of 64 MB with the screen on. In this case the 800 mAh battery has worked for over 5 hours. That's pretty much. 

Inside

The first Sony's PDA based on the Palm OS and capable of playing audio files was Clie PEG N710. Then arrived the 760th version. At present, the 770th model is available. It doesn't differ much from the 710th one. The only considerable difference is that it has the latest Palm OS version - 4.1. It's critical for users who are going both to listen to audio files and store photos. Although the Clie 710 supported the 16-bit color, the OS could work only with 8 bits, that is why it wasn't always possible to view full-color photos. 

The Clie 770 doesn't have such a problem. The screen looks superb. Although the maximum brightness is lower than in the Casio E-125, there are no problems with screen legibility in a sunny day; the iPaq 3800, Fujitsu Siemens Pocket LOOX and Toshiba e740 are definitely behind in this respect :-). Images are sharp, no jitter, no noticeable pixel grid. However, it looks as if the screen is covered with a protective film, as compared with a Pocket PC. But you will quickly get used to it. The Clie 770 won't replace you a flash-light as the screen is not brighter than necessary for reading. The graffiti area is unfortunately deprived of backlight. But this allows the Clie run longer from the battery than even some Palms. 



Connector for desktop PC and charger

Multimedia and other capabilities

The MP3 player is probably the best advantage of this computer. The player can reproduce both MP3 and ATRAC3 files. The PDA plays only from a memory card which is not supplied with it. But even if it were possible to play MP3 files from the main memory 8 MB wouldn't be enough. 

The sound through the headphones is of very high quality. Sony is fairly considered the leader in production of home and professional audio equipment. Sometimes the volume reserve is not sufficient, but it happens only in such loud places as a subway. Nevertheless, the sound is clear and lacks for distortions. 

The audio data exchange process is very simple. Just put the Clie into the cradle, open the menu item Transfer, and your desktop computer will get one more removable disc, i.e. the memory card of your PDA. Files can be transferred both ways.

Remember that you should load music into Palm/Programs/MSAudio instead of the root directory of the replaceable disc. Otherwise, the PDA won't see MP3 files. 

PalmOS will be PalmOS, even on a Sony's PDA. And most applications communicate with users via a built-in speaker standard for most Palms. Only the headphones provide a clearer sound. 



Headphones and remote control

A microphone is unluckily lacking, though it might be very handy for recording lectures as the PDA is mostly meant for young people. 

The interface of the OS is described in detail in the Sony T415 review. It certainly is much better to work with the color screen; there is not much difference, and all control elements are almost identical. 

Conclusion

The new Sony's solution makes a pleasant impression. Handling is easy, the design is unforgettable but not flashy. This PDA is worth paying attention to. It's the only PalmOS based computer coming with such wide multimedia capabilities. All fans of Sony will like it. And I think that this computer will be very popular with the youth. If multimedia features are not critical for you in contrast to weight and design, you'd better go with another Sony's solution - Clie PEG T615. It's much lighter (as the MP3 player is lacking), and its appearance is very similar to the Clie PEG N770. 
 

Andrey Klinaichev (andrey@ixbt.com)
 

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